Ubisoft’s presentation of Rainbow Six: Siege was one of the biggest highlights of E3. While gamers were blown away by the demonstration of team-based hostage rescue scenario, some were left wondering about the scenario’s hostage; an understandably terrified female character. In a presentation dominated by male characters, the nameless abductee was the only female shown, leading some to question Ubisoft’s attitude toward female characters in games. RockPaperShotgun spoke with Ubisoft about the concern, and while they learned that male hostages will also be in the game, they were disheartened by the reasoning behind the use of a female captive in the demo.
Ubisoft technical artist Oliver Couture confirmed that male hostages will appear in Rainbow Six: Siege alongside females, and also gave some details about how hostages will behave in the game. Couture explained, “We’re trying to define next-gen with the hostage. We call that a ‘living hostage.’ So she’ll react to explosions and things like that. It’s pretty cool. She’ll cough because of the dirt in the air, she covers herself when there’s shooting – those sorts of things.”
When asked about the E3 demo, Couture revealed something of an archaic, if prevalent, attitude toward gender differences; “I know some people asked about the hostage in the demo. I mean, when we did that design we felt a lot of empathy with the hostage. We wanted people to want to protect her. If the hostage gets killed a team loses the game, so we wanted players to care about the hostage so that’s the design we chose. But we’re also gonna have male hostages. That’s part of the plan.”
While it’s almost certainly true that the majority of Rainbow Six player are male, directly stating that a female was used in the demo to better evoke empathy from viewers is a poor PR move at least, and an indication of a obtuse attitude toward women at worst.
Seriously, how hard would it have been to say “It was 50/50. We really didn’t think about the hostage’s gender," and avoid yet another sexism controversy for Ubisoft?